We get asked about hiking gear for dogs a lot. There has been a boom in recent years of new and innovative items for dogs on the trail! For years people had to make their own stuff! I don’t have time for that, and my skills are lacking anyways. Here are the things that we use almost every hiking outing, and since we are on a budget we often use the same items for everyday life as well.
We just got this, and haven’t had it long enough to write a full review yet, but after four weeks, we love it! Chico is 22 1/4 at his widest girth point, and thus between sizes XS and Small. We went with the Small, and even though it doesn’t fit perfectly, he has no rubbing, chafing or hot spots. We’ve hiked about 75 miles in it so far, the longest was a 9 mile hike, where I had to lift him over stones and down some stone croppings, and he still had no problems with it. We did finally try on an XS, and for Chico’s odd build, it was too small. It just fit with all straps extended, if he gained any weight, or needed to wear a coat, it wouldn’t fit. It also took some time to get over his big head, and came up shorter on his body than the Small, leaving the back strap tight on his ribcage as well. Chico has a deep wide rib cage, is all muscle, but has a thin neck and big head, and also a thin chest area between his front legs where most dogs are stockier–This is the area that doesn’t fit him perfectly in the Small, its a bit loose, but, no rubbing or hot spots. Chico is 25 to 26 pounds, measures 22 1/4 at the widest point of his ribcage, Neck is 12 1/2, Head is 16 1/4, length from withers is 15.
We had an opportunity to pick up this harness for a really great price. I’ve been eyeing it for awhile, because I really liked the looks of it, and also it seemed it might be a bit sturdier than the comfortflex when used to help Chico down from things while hiking. Originally I planned on just replacing the Comfortflex for our daily harness and hikes where the temps were over 75ish. This is a great little harness and covers less of his body, so he doesn’t get as hot in it. No rubbing or hot spots yet. Haven’t had it long enough to write a full review. We walked about 40 urban miles in it, hiked 15 miles, and played fetch for 60 minutes ( 3 separate outings.) It also has a hoop/handle on back that is for use as a seat belt harness, and is advertised as such. I use the Ruffwear Webmaster handle as a seat belt harness as well, but it is not advertised for this, I suspect it’s because they also make a really expensive Seat Belt harness called the Load Up, which doesn’t even have a d ring on it for walking. I personally, don’t want to have to change harnesses when driving somewhere to hike, or just to walk my dog. Not to mention, I don’t live in an area where you can leave anything in your car, and I don’t want to carry anything extra. Also, I am a wake up and go kinda of person.
Comfort Flex Harness Old Review
I’ll admit that when I bought this, I thought it would be temporary until I got a Ruffwear Harness. Chico was 6 months old and got a light case of Kennel Cough despite being vaccinated. It’s like the flu, not every shot will prevent every strain of Kennel Cough. So I had to go out and get him a harness that day, as his training collar would aggravate his throat more. Also, as a smush faced dog, he should have been in a harness except for brief training sessions anyway. I went to a big chain, and most of the harnesses seemed flimsy, and like they would hurt if Chico did pull at all…or if I used the harness to quickly grab him in an emergency.
Then I saw this Comfortflex sports harness, it is thicker with light padding, has a quick release, is easily adjustable, and has reflective striping. And it is Made in the USA! It is really sturdy. I found this out as I had to wait til he was 1 years old to get him fixed, I caught him by this harness to pick him up quite a bit when he was fixated on playing with another dog. He has had this for 14 months now, and it has really held up, even though he sometimes gets salt water on it. It also doesn’t seem to retain any smells. You can see it in many of his photos. When I got it I was lucky that he was basically leash trained anyway, and wasn’t a puller. If you have a puller, I would try a harness with a front loop on the chest. Chico wears a size small, it fits great across his chest, and I cut the extra length of the adjustment strap off. Because the leash ring is on a strong nylon loop that comes out from the harness, it is easy to use under his back pack if I want, or put a seatbelt through it.
Back Pack –we lost ours and are searching for a new one that will maybe work with his new ruffwear harness….because he is between sizes, the Ruffwears might not work for us.
I love this leash, Waist worn or just using it like a normal leash. Originally I got it as I planned to use it with trekking poles, but discovered that I really love it. I do a lot of hiking on leash only trails, and places where at certain times of the year, it is better for Chico to be on leash, sometimes it’s better for him to be close to me on leash such as Mountain Lion territory, some trails even require a 6ft leash. I like the flexi leash on trails that we know, or, open flat trails. For more technical trails, I use a shorter leash, and while Chico isn’t a puller, he is that dog that will suddenly stop to sniff something a few times a hike. When you are going at a good pace this can be a bit jarring. I also sometimes have pain in my upper back from being on the computer too long, and the shock absorption of this leash, really helps with that, even if I am holding it instead of wearing it around my waist. I like it so much that I will get the small length as well. It comes in pretty colors, but I chose black since I am using it for hiking and know how dirty it will get 🙂
I got this simply because I love the mountain design on the back. I also liked the sleek look of the silver buckle, instead of the quick release that our Tilden Collar has, written about below. They are similar otherwise. But mountains tho, For my little nature dog.
If you don’t know, a dog who is off leash and orbits can do 2-3 miles as it’s hooman, This means that your pooch will also need more resources. Especially if you have a dog that you have trained off leash to mean “GO CRAZY.” So for some longer or more strenuous hikes, many hikers choose to keep their dogs on leash, even if it is an off leash area. There is an old saying that says something like don’t hike with what you can’t carry out, and I have seen too many hoomans struggling to carry out their exhausted dogs, we can at least prevent this kind of unfortunate incident with some forethought. And then there are the trails that are off leash, but really aren’t that safe for dogs, or for safe all dogs.
Besides longer hikes where I don’t want Chico off leash, I also take many leash only trails. I love the Flexi Leash, the one that I use is 26 feet long, and for up to 110 pound dogs, I use it for the length and because it is flat tape instead of cord. The cord can burn both you and your dog, and seems flimsy. I trail trained Chico with the smaller cord one when he was a puppy, I wish I would’ve purchased the larger tape cord first, but live and learn. If you are going to use a retractable leash, your dog has to be leash trained first, otherwise you’ll have many issues. I just attach it to his harness. Chico adapted to the long lead very quick, he soon learned that if he pulled at all, that I would stop, and the party train would stop, no more new sniffs for him! You might have to put in 10 minutes training the first few times you hike, but it is really worth it. It is also a great way keep your heels and recalls in practice. A trainer taught me to give a little tug when I say the commands, so he automatically feels that tug towards me even without a lead. AND the leash handle is awesome for planting a knee on while taking photos:)
Not only do I love these, Chico will actually drink out of them. There is no fumbling around trying to fill a collapsible bowl, or any bowl for that matter with a separate water container, maybe even one that also has caps or lids. I have several of these in both sizes, and will use 2 in his backpack to balance it, or my pack, etc. I keep one in the side of my backpack and just slide it out and use it without taking my backpack off, they are wide enough to not fall out when I bend over, which us dog owners have to do quite a bit. And as soon as I take it out, Chico will let me know right away if he wants water, he will back away if he doesn’t. If I really want him to drink, I just use one small squirt and make sure he takes a sip. No wasted water, no pouring out too much water by accident. Easy to refill. Chico doesn’t seem to like bowls while we are out on the trail, he often times won’t drink out of shared water if its at a trail head or at park. Only shared water at our house or a friends house. I guess he is an elitist! There are all sorts of tricks to get dogs to drink water on the trail, but with these water bottles I don’t have to use them. Maybe because they almost look like my water bottles 🙂
There is probably nothing that scares me more than Ticks, and Lyme Disease, sounds kinda nuts when you think that we are often in areas where bears, coyotes, and rattlesnakes also live. I was reluctant to get an 8 month collar that Chico had to wear all the time, but I didn’t want to use Frontline as many dogs have problems with it either becoming sick from it, or immune to it. I also tried a collar that I just had to put on an hour before hiking, but I was supposed to use gloves to handle it, so I didn’t feel good about that, and kept forgetting it. And then I found an embedded tick…So, I tried this collar. 5 months and so far so good!
It repels ticks before they can attach and bite. I still examine my dog and carry a tick key, but I haven’t seen one yet. Chico wears his tag collar 24/7, so he doesn’t mind wearing the Seresto, and it is also can be quickly removed in case your dog is trapped. My Vet said that it was ok for him to sleep in my bed with it, and I didn’t see anything in my packaging for it that advised against it, but some people have said that they read it. Anyway, he sleeps in my bed every night, and we have had the collar for 5 months. The collar can handle occasional swimming and monthly baths, heavy swimming shortens the time period to 5 months. It is also odorless. Chico is 25 pounds and wears a large. We paid $49 at our discount pet store, is is $45 on Amazon at the time of this writing, and I have seen them as much as $67 at chain stores. It is really a great value, even at $67.
This collar is vegan leather, unlike plastic type collars which fade, this one has held it’s color for over a year. It’s water proof, it doesn’t smell, you can wipe it right off, and it has the all important quick release in case of an emergency. It also has a little rubber thingy on the tag holder, that keeps your tags from making too much noise. I love the red. I see a lot of cute collars out there, but most are made of material that will absorb smells.
This handy little bag can slip in your pocket or clip on your pants or back pack,it also has a drawstring to keep the treats in.
We use this on Chico’s collar, in areas where noise is good. THe magnet silences it while it’s not in use. I keep it in our pack. The handy silencer and attachment it is what makes this. Sure you could make your own bells, and silence but it’s only $4. Thankfully I have not head to fully test this yet:)
We’ve only used these boots a few times so far, and with the socks they stayed on and did their job. We will use these on hot trails/surfaces, and the few trails around here that can be hard on his paws. When Chico wears these, I expect to either have him on leash, or in a calm state. Some people say that their dogs run and play in boots just fine, I will test them out more, and update. You can go to the Ruffwear Website and watch a video on how to measure your dog’s feet, you measure them across the paw. Also, if you need to order them in 2 different sizes for front and back you can do it through Ruffwear. I keep these in my pack in case my dog injures a paw on the trail. We practiced first around our gravel parking lot. This is Chico when we first put them on.